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Benny and his wife Ruthie a getting set to drive down to Florida, but Benny needs someone to look after his store while he's gone. Though he doesn't think much of him, Benny hands the responsibility over to his son, Russel. While Russel doesn't get much respect from his parents, he's better off than his brother, Ezra, whom Benny has gone so far as to disown. Ezra is currently battling with his work (coach of a high school basketball team that hasn't won in ages) and his wife (who keeps nagging him that she wants to have a baby as soon as possible) at the same time. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
This is probably the most difficult movie for me to critique. The cast includes several of the greatest comedic talent of the twentieth century, and the material is to die for. In addition, I find the Jewish humor of both Arkins, both Reiners, Sid Caesar, Woody Allen, etc. to be some of the best available in cinema. I soooo wanted to love this movie!! Unfortunately, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it, and beyond saying simply that it isn't as funny as it could have been, I would have some trouble explaining why. Leonard Maltin gave this a 1-star review, calling it "truly unbearable." And yet Keith Bailey, one of my personal favorite reviewers, stated on his website www.badmovieplanet.com that he absolutely laughed himself silly with this movie, calling it a "comic masterpiece." Other reviewers on this website are similarly at polar opposite opinions, and this made me insanely interested in seeing it for myself. Though it has mysteriously never been available on video or DVD, I did find a quality bootleg copy on ebay. As far as I'm concerned, neither of the two reviewers is correct - my appraisal is more of a middle ground between the two.
It seems to me that Robert Klane had a fantastic script, which pulled out all the stops, balancing almost six wacky subplots surrounding a dysfunctional Jewish family. The multiple-subplot structure of "Seinfeld" episodes most certainly takes its inspiration from this movie. Several individual lines are magnificent, the ideas are completely original, but the execution was inefficient. For one, the cinematography is some of the worst I have ever seen - the whole movie is too dark due to insufficient lighting. Second, the timing of most of the jokes is way off. The best example is a scene involving the simultaneous asthmatic attack of both Rob Reiner's character and his father. On paper, this could have been a wonderful bit of dual comic overacting, but the actors underplay it, as if they are embarrassed by the whole thing. And director Arkin makes the unwise decision to prolong the scene for what seems an eternity.
Similar sloppiness pervades the movie, and as such, I found the IDEAS of the movie downright hilarious, but I just couldn't laugh while I was watching it. This is one of those movies that seem a lot more entertaining in hindsight than while you were actually viewing it. That might be the reason why so many reviewers here have fond recollections after so many years. Mind you, I'm not saying it is a bad movie, and that you should steer clear of it as Maltin suggests. But what I am saying is that it has been overrated for two reasons: 1) It has basically disappeared from the public for 28 years, giving it a cult movie mystique, and 2) People have overly nostalgic memories after not having seen it for many years.
Because I love the type of comedy this movie aspired to be, I would like to make a recommendation. Instead of seeing this movie, I suggest Larry Cohen's 1981 horror spoof "Full Moon High," also starring Arking and his son Adam. That movie had similarly anarchic Jewish humor, but the difference is that that movie pulled everything off magnificently, and additionally its is much easier and cheaper to find on video. That film was, indeed, a comic masterpiece.
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